What's It Like Working at an Agency in the Creative Field?

A group of people working at an agency discusses creative ideas around a conference table

Are you a creative professional who's wondered what it's like working at an agency? Working at a marketing, advertising or digital agency is quite different from working in-house. Is the agency life right for you? Read on for advice that may help guide your decision.

What kinds of personality types excel at agencies?

Agencies exist to serve clients, and the pace is fast. A client's needs can change suddenly, and new, urgent projects can arrive unexpectedly. So working at an agency requires grace under pressure and an ability to shift gears and get up to speed quickly.

"People who are adaptable, outgoing, driven and able to talk to anybody will do well at agencies," said Angela Vitzthum, former TCG assistant vice president, now a mobile app developer in Chicago. "To get the job done, you must be comfortable speaking up and asking questions."

Bottom line: If you can confidently tackle any challenge thrown your way, you'll be a valuable player in an agency environment.

What's the agency's corporate culture like?

Agency company culture varies. In a nutshell, it's how the agency chooses to translate its mission into day-to-day work life. Some agencies operate like startups, with flexible work hours, open workspaces, beer on Fridays and kickball teams. Some agencies focus on work-life balance and keeping their employees engaged with their families and communities.

Steve Taylor has chronicled agency culture across a wide variety of firms. The copywriter has been working at an agency in a different city each month for his project The Great Agency Adventure. He reports that agencies across the East Coast seemed similar in terms of their work-hard, play-hard culture. But when he got to Charlotte, N.C., the staff was much more relaxed, and everyone was home in time for dinner.

Learn more about how a creative office space impacts the experience of working at an agency.

How do you find the right agency for you?

With so many variations, how can you discover which corporate culture is right for you? Vitzthum suggested searching Google, Twitter and Instagram to learn what people are saying about an agency and to see candid pictures of the workplace. (We also suggest Glasssdoor.) During interviews with an agency, ask about daily life there. Many agencies use group interviews as a method of introducing the candidate and the team to each other and seeing how well they fit, Vitzthum said.

To some extent, adapting to an agency is like fitting in at any other creative job: Take your cues from your coworkers when it comes to dress code and cubicle or office decorations. Same goes for local customs regarding kitchen cleanup (is it a wash-your-own-mug situation, or is there a cleaning person?) and language (is swearing like a sailor the norm, or do your coworkers keep things PG?).

Thinking about making the switch to working at an agency? First, read this article, "The Truth About Corporate Culture."

If you take the time to evaluate how you like to work and what your goals are, you'll have much improved chances of finding an agency that's right for you. If you're considering working at an agency in the creative industry, be sure to check out the most recent Salary Guide from The Creative Group to find out what your earning potential is.


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